MILAN — You can take the boys out of Canada, but you can't take Canada out of the boys.
Dsquared's first retail outpost — on Via Verri here in the heart of the city's fashion quadrilateral — is a mountain high covered with a Milanese patina.
The 5,000-square-foot space, which carries men's, women's and accessories, had a soft opening over the summer, but designers Dan and Dean Caten officially will inaugurate the store on Thursday night during the women's spring collections here with an in-store fete.
The twins, known for their sporty, naughty designs, tapped up-and-coming Italian architectural studio Storage to translate their Canadian provenance — they hail from Toronto — and meld it into a contemporary retail look.
"The greatest challenge was coming up with a concept that's us," said Dan Caten. "We finally have a way to show customers who we are and what our vision is really about."
The store is plied with more than 17,000 hand-set timber chocks. Unevenly placed, the timber walls resemble a giant, 3-D Tetris. Other woody references abound, including a display wall featuring the designers' first fragrance, He Wood; imposing antler chandeliers, and an enclave of soaring birch trees in one of the three novel fitting rooms.
The second fitting room boasts a plasma screen showing a kindling fireplace and the third has full-length screens of a dark, mossy forest. There, the sound of bird calls helps transport clients into an ironic kind of nature.
Of course, this being a Dan and Dean store, there also is an urbane side. An adjacent Champagne bar, with quilted beige suede banquettes, waxed black stone flooring and mirrored fixtures, is set to open this week.
The store, which the twins said is performing above plan, is the first in a series of expected openings. A franchise unit opened this month off of Red Square in Moscow. Other stores are planned for Capri, Istanbul and Kiev in the first half of next year.
The brothers said they plan to roll out up to 25 units in the next three years. Directly owned flagships are slated for New York, Los Angeles, London and Paris, while franchise agreements are in the works for other cities, including Hong Kong and Tokyo.Founded in 1995, Dsquared's apparel is produced under license by Renzo Rosso's Staff International. The brand's growing footwear collection is directly owned. Pollini produces the women's shoe collection, and Gallizio Torresi, the men's.
Also on tap is an eyewear license. The twins declined to mention possible contenders, but said an announcement is expected in the near future.
The Staff manufacturing and distribution deal ends in 2010 and the twins said they are "still figuring out all options," regarding the next move.
One thing for certain is the designers are keen to build their brand. Sales climbed 34 percent last year to reach 86 million euros, or $108 million at average exchange rates. The designers forecast 12 percent sales growth this year.
"The perception of our brand hasn't been where we wanted it to be," Dan said. "But now with the store, we're really getting our brand down."
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